Writing in the current issue of the British Medical Journal, a Yale School of Public Health professor and his colleague question whether animal research is being conducted with enough rigor for it to be considered a cornerstone of biomedical research and a foundation for human investigations.
Furthermore, Dr. Michael B. Bracken, Susan Dwight Bliss Professor of Epidemiology, and Dr. Pandora Pound of the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, ask even if the scientific rigor of animal experiments improved, would that enhance the currently poor prediction of the results of animal studies to humans?
Updating a similar paper published 10 years ago in BMJ, the authors observe that only modest improvement in the scientific methods of animal research has occurred and that the necessary synthesis of animal research in systematic reviews is substantially less than required or than occurs in human clinical research.
The authors suggest that the use of animals in biomedical experiments is only condoned by the public on the expectation that it will ultimately lead to clinical benefits to humans. But the use of animals in poorly conducted research is unethical because it can contribute nothing to scientific knowledge or to progress in clinical research. It results in needless failures to reproduce scientific observation, further unnecessary experiments on animals and humans and excessive exposure to ineffective and unsafe drugs.
Pressing for much more scientific rigor in animal experiments, they conclude: “if the foundations of the biomedical research enterprise are unsound, then whatever is built on these foundations will be similarly precarious.”